AMSRO Member Research Companies Safeguard Data Privacy

AMSRO Member Research Companies Safeguard Data Privacy

In this opinion, AMSRO Presiden Craig Young (pictured below) explains the need for Australian companies to become engaged in data collection and use.

Craig Young

As the reputational and financial risk of being revealed as an untrustworthy data host continues to escalate, and worldwide attention focuses on the illegitimate data collection conducted by Cambridge Analytica, the Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) has sounded a warning for Australian companies engaged in data collection and use.

“Australian organisations may feel that the Facebook issue is somewhat removed from their world. The reality is they are not exempt. No one is.”

“The spotlight is now squarely on how organisations manage and use personal data – from the smallest firms up to the very largest, client organisations and all those who deal in and store data.”

“The financial implications for a breach are significant and the reputational damage is potentially catastrophic, so the liability that goes with data management should be top of mind for all leaders of organisations,” said Craig Young, the President of AMSRO.

With the wealth of data available, any business handling personal information needs to be experienced and trusted users of data: with corporate reputation and revenue on the table, there is little room for error.

And while the market has seen over $US100 billion wiped from Facebook’s value as its partnership with Cambridge Analytica hits the headlines, AMSRO believes it is incumbent on the market and social research industry in Australia to continue to provide the highest level of protection to companies using research services, and in turn, to consumers.

AMSRO member companies have a long and successful track record in safeguarding respondent data and continue to conduct legitimate research working under strict privacy rules that protect confidentiality and prohibit any selling.

Personal information for market and social research (conducted by AMSRO member organisations) is collected only with consent and under strict codes and practices.

This includes a registered privacy code and an industry ‘Trust Mark’ – a seal of endorsement that assures business and government organisations they are buying research that is quality-tested and meets not only ethical standards but also goes over and above minimal privacy legislation.

Members working under the industry Trust Mark:

  1. Work under Australia’s first and only registered Australian Privacy Principles (APP) Industry Privacy Code, enshrined in Australian law
  2. Have an independent annual audit for ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certification
  3. Adhere to the industry code of ethics.

Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said: “I’m very pleased to have worked with AMSRO in the development of the Code. This is a significant step that highlights the value of co-regulatory schemes under the Privacy Act and it demonstrates the importance of privacy for the marketing and social research industry.”

The Code imposes some additional requirements including:

  • information collected principally used in a de-identified form
  • participation by research subjects in market and social research as carried out by AMSRO members is always voluntary
  • market and social researchers use the information collected only for research purposes.

AMSRO member organisations have a 15-year record without a single finding of a privacy breach which demonstrates the success of AMSRO in protecting the industry and the millions of Australians who engage in market and social research.

“Working under the Privacy Code signifies that AMSRO members recognise that proper, respectful and informed consent is the best avenue for demonstrating trustworthiness – rather than relying on self-accreditation or looking for loopholes, exceptions and exclusion to bypass the need for consent,” said David Vaile, co-convenor Cyberspace Law and Policy Community, UNSW.

A $1 billion industry, market and social research is an important service that benefits all Australians. From political polls and television ratings, to surveys of customer satisfaction and the development of products and services, to studies on public health in Australia, market and social research provides valuable information about the society in which we live.

This information helps government, commercial and not-for-profit organisations make informed decisions based upon the interests and needs of their constituents, clients and the general public.

Having rigorous privacy compliance processes in organisations will be imperative as consumers and regulators rightfully ramp up their expectations regarding appropriate data use and handling.

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